Sam Sommerhauser (R) and Michael Slesinski (NCGA)
When the last putt fell in, Sam Sommerhauser
and his caddie, his dad Dave, exchanged a high-five and a long hug. A marathon week had ended in victory.
Sommerhauser, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Arizona, got his first amateur win in a big way, capturing the 118th NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill after defeating runner-up Michael Slesinski
, 3 and 2, in Friday’s 36-hole final. Having learned the game while growing up near Catta Verdera CC in Lincoln, Sommerhauser joins a list of NCGA Amateur winners that includes Lawson Little, Kevin Sutherland and John Catlin.
“It feels good. I know there are a lot of great players who have their name on the trophy,” Sommerhauser said. “It feels great knowing my name will be on there with them.”
A past winner of the NCGA Junior and the Pro-Junior champ at 2019 First Tee Open with pro partner Kirk Triplett, the No.6 seeded Sommerhauser took a 1-up lead with a birdie on No.4 and never let go. By the time he and Slesinski, a grad student at St, Mary’s, reached the break, the lead had grown to 3-up thanks to a pair of late wins on the 17th and 18th holes.
Following the break, Slesinski, who reached the semifinals at last week’s SCGA Amateur, closed the gap to 2-up with a quick win on the 19th hole and later made it 1-up with another win on the 23rd hole. On the ensuing 24th hole (No.9), however, Sommerhauser made birdie to re-up the lead to two. Slesinski never got closer than 2-up the rest of the way.
“It’s by far the longest event I have ever played,” said Sommerhauser, who also honed his game as a youth playing on the Junior Tour of Northern California. “My game wasn’t that great today. But I stuck to the process and kept hitting good shots when I needed to.”
In getting to the finals, Slesinski, the No.9 seed, had routinely climbed his way back from early deficits. Against Sommerhauser, it didn’t happen.
“I just made too many bogeys. I was playing behind all day and tried to force it in some areas. That’s not how you win match play,” said Slesinski, also a JTNC product. “I had opportunities and just didn’t convert, and you have to do that against a good player. I just didn’t do it.”
Sommerhauser’s dad, Dave, worked the bag all week. Considering how things turned out, it may happen again in the future.
“It meant a lot to me to have him out there with me,” the younger Sommerhauser said. “It’s nice to get a win with him watching me.”
ABOUT THE NCGA Match Play
The oldest of the NCGA’s major events, the Amateur
Match Play Championship, dates back to 1903 when
was first played at San Rafael GC. Varying formats
been used over the 100+ years of competition but
the tournament is 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying,
followed by a 32-person seeded match play bracket.
Pre-qualifying required for non-exempt players.
must have a handicap index of 5.4 or less.
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